With offices only two miles from Fenway Park, Watch It Made lives amid baseball fever every summer. So it was only natural for us to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Kentucky when researching our book on factory tours. With the pennant races in full throttle and the school vacations in the doldrums, August seems an especially good time to see how the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made.
Created by Bud Hillerich in 1884, the Louisville Slugger has been swung by such baseball heroes as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio. In 1996, the Hillerich & Bradsby Company opened the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, KY. On display are actual bats swung by some of the most famous hitters in the baseball's history. Among the many attractions, you can take the field in a replica of Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Choose a famous pitcher to throw the ball in your direction at 90 miles per hour, or step into a batting cage and take a few swings.
Visitors can also take a guided factory tour. Amid the ubiquitous smell of wood, H&B turns billets of maple and northern white ash into Louisville Slugger bats. Most are made on automatic lathes. It takes about 40 seconds to make a bat on the tracer lathes. Workers use a metal pattern of the exact bat shape and guide the machine to trace this pattern—the process is similar to copying a key at a hardware store. All of the bats used in Major League Baseball are made on a special CNC lathe, the only one of its kind in the world.
The famous oval trademark is seared into the wood, along with the bat's model number. Sometimes a player's autograph is still emblazoned on the "flat of the grain." Bats can also be foil-branded with either gold or silver. Behind the branders, large cabinets hold more than 8,500 professional players' autograph brands.
Planning a "staycation" instead of a summer road-trip this year? Bear in mind that your baseball team's home stadium may offer a guided tour, giving you some behind-the-scenes baseball action close to home. In addition, there may be any number of interesting factory tours right in your area—perfect for day-trips. Check our book Watch It Made to find out.
Posted By Karen Axelrod Aug 5, 2008